Having horse health as a top priority should be every owner’s goal. An unhealthy horse can’t perform up to potential. Worse, an unhealthy horse could be in danger of losing his life if he’s suffering from a serious condition.
Fortunately, it isn’t that hard to keep a horse in good health. By following some routine and common sense measures, you horse will be fit and ready for whatever you have planned.
This article will present some of the things you need to be aware of and schedule into your horse’s routine. With a little preventative care, your horse should remain healthy and ready to hit the trails or show ring.
Horse Health Tip #1 Horse Feeding
Not all feed is created equal. Nor is all feed adequate for every horse. You need a good quality feed for your horse. And you need to feed the proper amount.
The bag should have the correct measurement, depending on the horse’s weight, listed in a chart. Your veterinarian can recommend a good feed for your horse at every stage of his life.
Store the feed in an air-tight container. You don’t want rodents and other animals getting in the feed. And you don’t want it to become stale before your horse finishes the bag. Your horse’s age will determine the type of feed he should have.
Horse Health Tip #2 Feeding Weanling and Senior Horses
A weanling and a senior horse should not have the same feed as a mature, fit horse. A young horse has different needs for vitamins, minerals, and protein. An elderly horse often has problems eating and can drop weight quickly.
Many times, old horses have dental issues and can only eat mash which must be prepared fresh for each meal. Food must be properly chewed and broken down before it hits the horse’s stomach. If it’s swallowed without being chewed, it won’t benefit the horse.
An old horse with dental problems can eat as much as a young horse and still lose weight. All because he can’t break the food down due to his aging and over-long teeth.
Proper dental care is essential for all horses, but it’s critical for the senior horse. An aged horse that doesn’t get nutrition from his food will keep losing weight and eventually his organs will become damaged.
Left unchecked, he will become a starvation case and his organs will fail.
Horse Health Tip #3 Dental Care for Horses
Veterinarians and equine dentists can keep your horse’s teeth in good shape. They will examine the teeth and perform any needed care. As horses age, the length and angle of their teeth will change.
Normal chewing while eating will create sharp enamel points that can cause your horse pain. Though this is far from the only dental problem a horse can develop. Your young horse, from birth to 18 months old, should be examined at least once, more often if an issue becomes apparent.
From 18 to 52 months, horses should have their teeth examined twice a year.
Horses from 52 months to age 18 should have their teeth examined once a year. At age 18 and up, your horse may need more than one dental exam a year, depending on how his teeth age.
Horse Health Tip #4 Deworming
There’s quite a bit of disagreement on how many times a year you should deworm your horse. There isn’t a one size answer for every horse. Your veterinarian can help guide you in the best schedule for deworming.
Some people deworm every 8 weeks. But at the least, you should deworm with each season change… spring, summer, fall, and winter.
Whatever schedule you settle on, make it a priority to follow through. A horse with a gut full of worms doesn’t feel good and cannot perform up to potential. He will also lose weight to the point that he may have visible ribs with a pot belly.
In a situation such as that, it is absolutely necessary to involve a veterinarian to get the horse safely free from parasites.
A large parasite load can endanger a horse’s life. This isn’t a situation to undertake alone. An equine medical professional will examine your horse and start eliminating the parasite load while monitoring the horse’s health through the process.
Horse Health Tip #5 Hoof Care
No hoof. No horse. No kidding.
Your horse needs regular hoof trimming. And depending on where you ride, he may need shoes as well. Some people prefer to keep their horses barefoot and if a horse is ridden on trails, once the hooves toughen up, that is often an okay decision.
Some horses, however, can have soft hooves and will need shoes to even ride on trails. Horses that are shown will need to be shod as well.
And there are instances that will necessitate shoes. Horses can need shoes due to injury, an abnormality of a foot or leg, a gait problem, hoof cracks, and other problems. Sometimes the need for shoes is temporary. But some horses will need shoes for their lifespan.
A good farrier will do his or her best to keep your horse’s feet in top shape. You’ll usually need to have your horse’s hooves trimmed and the shoes reset every 6 weeks.
You don’t want to wait too long and have a horse throw a shoe, or have a lose shoe flopping on their foot. Staying on a regular schedule will keep your horse’s feet in the best condition possible. And it’ll keep your farrier happy too.
Health Tip #6 Proper Fitting Tack
This is a no-brainer. Ill-fitting tack can cause your horse pain and in worse case scenarios, can cause a dangerous situation. A saddle or bridle that causes pain can result in an injury for one or both of you.
A bargain saddle that doesn’t fit well, or is made from cheap leather, isn’t a bargain. Your saddle is an investment, not of money, but in safety and comfort for you and your horse. It must fit the horse, and it must fit you too.
If you’re uncomfortable, you won’t be balanced and that will throw the horse off balance too. It will affect his stride and neither of you will enjoy the ride.
Don’t cut corners. Your saddle is the most expensive and most important item you’ll need for you and your horse.
Horse Health Tip #7 Adequate Shelter
All horses need proper shelter. Horses that are turned out on pasture need a shelter that remains dry and provides a wind-break.
This is especially important in cold weather. A wooden run-in shed will work well. The doorway shouldn’t be overly large and it’s best if there’s a covering, such as a tarpaulin, that the horse can push through that will help keep wind and rain out.
Stabled horses need exercise or they’ll develop stable vices such as stall weaving, walking in circles, chewing wood, and possibly cribbing (bracing their teeth on wood and sucking in air).
The stall needs to be cleaned daily and adequate bedding provided for comfort in standing and laying down. Clean water should always be available. Stalls should have walls high enough that a horse can’t get a leg over the top or be able to bite a horse in the next stall.
While horses aren’t that difficult to keep healthy and happy, there’re some things that shouldn’t be ignored or skimped on.
Knowing what to do will ensure you keep your horse health and will pay off many times over. With proper care, your horse can remain sound and healthy. Many horses can be ridden long into their senior years.
Common sense and a little know how, with a good veterinarian for a partner, will help your horse stay in top shape for the rest of his life.
I used to ride back in the day for fun as a kid. It doesn’t dawn on you then how much goes into keeping a horse happy, healthy and fit.
This was an eye opener for me, I’ve contemplated getting back in the saddle so to speak. You really listed all of the prominent horse health tips and gave a lot of insight as to the “why” you’re doing what you’re doing. I really appreciated that. Very knowledgeable article and one that I will reference back to.
Thank you for sharing
Hi Jenny. Thanks for taking the time to read my post! Yes, many owners aren’t aware of all of the steps they need to take to care for their horse. Then when their horse gets sick and dies, the owner is heartbroken. I’m so glad this post shed light on ways to prevent premature death in horses.